As the weather heats up, it’s more important than ever to stay hydrated, especially during exercise. However, water isn’t the only crucial ingredient, salt also plays an essential role in helping your body to retain water.
When heat strikes, salty sweaters are more likely than others to suffer from heat-related illnesses. Although they lose about the same amount of chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium as non-salty sweaters, their sodium levels become an issue.
The signs to look out for include:
- Sweat tastes salty / stings eyes
- Salt stains on clothing / skin
- Frequent muscle cramps
- Dehydration problems
The consequences of low-sodium levels range from dehydration to muscle cramps or even organ failure. Athletes can manage these risks by being aware of how much salt they sweat and need to replenish.
So why increase your salt intake when exercising in hot weather?
1. Help retain fluids
Salt is necessary to increase the rate that your body absorbs and holds water. Some sports drinks include small amounts of salt, but salty drinks aren’t that tasty so the amount of salt put into the sports drinks may not be enough, especially for salty sweaters.
2. Improve performance
Researchers in Spain have found that athletes who supplement their electrolyte drinks with extra salt perform better in endurance events than those who rely on the drinks alone for rehydration.
Taking extra salt just prior to competition can help you exercise longer and harder. Fatigue during hot-weather exercise is caused by lack of water, salt, sugar or calories. Of the four, exercisers are most likely to neglect their salt intake.
You should always replace fluids, salt, sugar, and protein after you exercise in hot weather. Rehydration after exercise is important because most athletes do not consume enough fluids during exercise to replenish the fluid lost in sweat and respiration. Just salting your food to taste should replace the salt you lose through heavy sweating.